Welcome to a brand new age of political cynicism in America! According to a new poll from Pew, the American people have become dramatically more cynical about the chances of bipartisanship over the past two years. From Pew:
The public continues to say they want Obama and Republican leaders to work together, but there is considerable skepticism that this will occur. About six-in-ten (61%) say GOP leaders should try to work with Obama to accomplish things, even if it means disappointing some groups of Republican supporters. A similar percentage (65%) says Obama should do the same in working with Republicans.
But by roughly two-to-one (63% to 30%), most Americans think Republicans and Democrats will end up bickering and opposing one another more than usual this year. This is a far more pessimistic view than the public expressed two years ago. Shortly before Obama took office in January 2009, just 39% predicted increased partisanship, while half (50%) thought Republicans and Democrats would work together more than usual over the course of that year.
Since the last two years have seen a record number of filibusters and a unprecedented level of obstructionism from Senate Republicans, no one should be surprised if the public has little hope for the prospects of honest bipartisanship.
This heightened partisanship has, overall, likely hurt both parties, since the number of Americans self-identified with either of the top major parties is among the lowest in decades. Yet, looking at the 2010 election result, it seems clear that, in the near term, it is the Democrats that have suffered relatively more as a result of the growth in cynicism.
This shouldn’t be surprising, either. Democrats were in total control, so even though Republican obstructionism prevented them from taking action, Democrats still got the blame for failing to get things done while in power.
Probably of equal importance is that Barack Obama actually made promoting bipartisanship, ending the “red state, blue state” divide, hope and change such big campaign promises. Even though Republicans have worked against this, they also never made delivering bipartisanship or change the tentpole promise of their party. Unlike Obama, the Republicans didn’t set a standard for themselves that the opposition could so easily stop them from achieving.